Pope Francis Praises Comedians At Vatican Meeting: “You Unite People, Because Laughter Is Contagious”

Pope Francis met with more than 100 comedians from around the world on Friday, telling the gathering that included Stephen Colbert, Whoopi Goldberg and Chris Rock that they “unite people, because laughter is contagious.”

“Your talent is a precious gift,” the pope told them, per the Vatican. “Together with a smile, it spreads peace in our hearts and among others, helping us to overcome difficulties and cope with everyday stress. It helps us find relief in irony and go through life with humor. I like to pray daily with the words of Saint Thomas More: ‘Grant me, O Lord, a good sense of humor.'”

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Others attending included Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jimmy Fallon, Jim Gaffigan, Mike Birbiglia, and Conan O’Brien.

In his remarks, the pope also credited the comedians for addressing real-world issues, as a number of the personalities draw on political humor in late-night and stand up.

The pope said, “You denounce abuses of power; you give voice to forgotten situations; you highlight abuses; you point out inappropriate behavior. You do this without spreading alarm or terror, anxiety or fear, as other types of communication tend to do; you rouse people to think critically by making them laugh and smile.”

The pope emphasized the unifying effect of comedy, even at polarized times and even when so many comedians trade in political barbs.

“Humor does not offend, humiliate, or put people down according to their flaws. While communication today often generates conflict, you know how to bring together diverse and sometimes contrary realities,” he said. “How much we need to learn from you. The laughter of humor is never ‘against’ anyone, but is always inclusive, purposeful, eliciting openness, sympathy, empathy.”

The pope also raised the question: “Can we laugh at God?”

“Of course, we can, just as we play and joke with the people we love,” he said. “The Jewish wisdom and literary tradition is a master in this! It is possible to do this without offending the religious sentiments of believers, especially the poor.”

After the audience with the Pope, Colbert told a reporter for Catholic News Service, “I really want to interview him, but I really want to do a cooking segment with him, because he talks a lot about cooking. Evidently he makes a great tortellini en brodo.”

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